For more years than anyone cares to remember when the world’s best surfers arrive in Hawaii for the north shore season, many of them will make a sharp right hand turn off the main road, about halfway between the airport and the ocean, to visit the Town & Country surfboard factory in Wahiawa, to load up on Glenn Pang rifles.
Because Glenn is better at making Hawaiian shooters than just about anyone. If you need convincing, ask Frederico Morais, who took out the Hawaiian Pro at Haleiwa this year, or Billy Kemper, winner of this week’s Pipe Invitational.
Both of them on T&C boards, honed by Glenn Pang.
Frederico ditched his usual board sponsor for the season, and Billy is a T&C lifer. Billy’s board of choice is the aptly named Sidewinder.
Given all the buzz around Glenn again this year, we thought it was about time we talked with the man himself to learn a bit more about what makes him tick, and his approach to making weapons for some of the world’s best.
We hooked up with Glenn just before this season’s competitions rolled into town to get the lowdown…
You’ve been shaping now for 40 years. Is it hard to stay motivated when you come in the bay, or, is it hard these days to keep up the creativity on a routine?
It doesn’t feel like a chore making boards, I loved making boards from day one. Being creative is not a problem, it’s finding the time to translate all of the ideas I have in my head to actual boards. Some may be a little off the wall and others are just fine-tuning of current boards.
How many days a week are you building boards and shaping these days?
Right now being peak season before the comps, I’m in the bay seven days a week.
So many people now swear by solid morning routines as to the best way to set up their day. Do you have a morning routine that you stick by? What is your typical start to the day?
I’m for sure a morning person, I’m usually up pretty early. If it’s good, I try and get a morning session at first light, if not, I’m at work by 5:30-6:30. I like being at work early, no distractions, lots gets done
Do you take in and watch a lot of surfing clips yourself? What do you like watching? Or where do you get your online surfing fix?
I always try to watch all of the comps online. Also when I take a lunch break, I’ll watch a few surfing clips too. I’ll check out Surfline, Stab and Surfer Mag to see what new vids they have posted.
What and Who inspires you now in surfing?
It’s hard not to get inspired watching what’s going on in surfing nowadays! Billy Kemper is taking big wave surfing to a new level and also all of the younger guys with their air game. I can only imagine what’s going to happen in the next few years.
Do you crank up any tunes while you work and what sort of music do you listen to while building boards?
I usually just listen to classic rock when I’m in the shaping bay.
What did you learn from working with Craig Sugihara and Glenn Minami? Do you guys still feed off each other with ideas?
I didn’t know much early on, everything was self-taught. I started working for T & C in the early eighties, Craig Sugihara gave me some pointers and Glenn Minami let me watch him a few times. Learning the basics was a hard process and from then on it was just getting numbers. Just doing board after board, trying to fine-tune my shaping skills, which took many years. I still talk with Craig a bit and help him with his board designing.
From what I understand you got your start shaping early, in like the 8th grade? The late sixties? How did that come about? Where did you start in the bay? And what board did you first shape? Was it for you did you ride it? How did it ride?
Yeah, I started shaping pretty early, I was in the eighth grade. When I was just learning how to surf, I watched one of my friend’s brother make a surfboard. Looked fun, so I thought I’d give it a go. Made a board for myself, everyone was on single fins at the time. Being the first board that I made totally by myself, I was stoked to ride it. It just grew from there, making boards for my brothers, and then friends, then friends of friends
How much experimentation is taking place these days for you in the bay building boards?
I’m always looking for new things, whether it’s in surfboard design or in new materials and construction. I think it’s been one of the reasons for my longevity as a shaper.
Which other surfboard builders /shapers do you look to today for inspiration?
I’m always looking at what other shapers are doing no matter who it is. If a board looks good or interesting to me, I’ll give it a once over to see what it’s all about.
Will surfboards get more radical or just more refined?
Boards will get both more radical and more refined. I think more surfers are open to new designs now and with the aid of CAD programs, boards are getting more and more refined. Surfboard design is only limited to the shapers imagination.
With new board shapes who rides them first and how do you fine tune the designs?
Rider feedback is always important when it comes to fine-tuning designs. When I have a new design or concept for a board, I’ll usually try it first and if need be, make a few adjustments, then I’ll give it to one of our riders and we’ll go from there
Do you have a particular board you really love to surf yourself?
Lately, I’ve been riding a few different asymmetrical boards. Made one a few years ago and have been loving how the boards have been going since.
Do many touring guys drop by to supplement their quivers when they arrive in Hawaii and surf up on the North Shore?
I’ve been doing boards for lots of traveling guys when they are here for the winter for a while now. Many surfers look to the local shapers to help supplement their quivers when they are here in the islands. Dog Marsh and I go way back, I made boards for him when he was on tour, since then I’ve had a good relationship with many of the Australians, doing boards for Jake Patterson, Tom Whitaker, and Taj Burrow to name a few.
Have you ever travelled to Australia?
I’ve been to Australia a couple of times. The first time was in the ’90s, I was in New Castle and shaped a few boards there. The second time was a couple of years ago, just a holiday sightseeing trip with a few friends.
If you could be based anywhere else to work on surfboards where would it be?
Probably Fiji I had to pick someplace else besides Hawaii. Don’t think I’d sell many boards there, but would get some epic waves.
What’s one of the more weird board requests you’ve had? Or any standout funny customer complaints?
I had this one customer who wanted to watch me shape his board, next he wanted to try and shape part of the board. Needless to say, it was an all-day affair just trying to fix the board after the customer gave it a go.
Is there someone you are working with to hand down your decades of shaping knowledge too? Who should we watch out for building T&C boards in the coming years?
I’m not working with anyone one right now, I’ve worked with many shapers throughout the years though. T & C has two other great shapers working for us right now here in Hawaii. We have Tommy Tanaka who is a great longboard shaper and Makani McDonald who shapes Brissa Hennessy’s boards and can shape a variety of different boards. I’m always on the lookout for someone who has the drive and wants to make his mark as a shaper. There aren't many new faces in the board building business these days.
If you want to know what all the fuss is about, below is a rundown of Glenn Pang models that can be yours at the click of a button...Saint – An icon of the mid-’80s, The Saint is a replica of the board made famous by 1989 ASP World Champion, Martin Potter, fine-tuned for the modern era. This board features a fuller outline, into a single wing and swallowtail. The board is thick through the front with a beaked nose.
Smoke Bomb - The Smoke Bomb is a fuller outline board with a low rocker and really deep concaves. The board is made for smaller slower waves and should be ridden smaller than your usual shortboard. The deep concaves give it lots of lift and make it more lively in the smaller surf. The board carries lots of volume and has speed from the get-go.
Flux - The Flux is our every day performance board workhorse. All of our team guys have it in their quivers and it works well when the waves have a little push.
Jump Off - The Jump Off is a good grovel board for smaller waves. It’s an easy board to ride and can still be ridden in larger surf by just changing the fin configuration.
Sidewinder - The Sidewinder is a step up board made for good waves, a board you can depend on when the waves are solid. You’ll see all of the team guys riding those when the waves start to have some push and is what I make for the guys in the comps in the 6’0”-6’6” size range.
Well there you go, a little insight into one of the true legends of surfboard building.